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Reaching the elusive physician

D’Arcy King PhD
Global Head of Customer Experience
Hall & Partners Health

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D’Arcy helps brands to uncover multi-stakeholder insights and reveal untapped opportunities to create frictionless customer and brand experience strategies.

How experience mapping enables pharma marketers to increase physician engagement

Ask physicians in the US what keeps them up at night, and you’ll hear about regulatory hurdles, reimbursement issues, workflow inefficiencies and administrative overload. Spending extended and meaningful time with patients is no longer feasible – along with the meaningful conversations with pharma that have traditionally served as support in patient care. Burnout, dissatisfaction and low morale are endemic. To help today’s physicians rest easier, it’s time for pharma to conceive a new breed of brand and customer experiences.

Far more physicians now operate as employees within hospital systems, academic medical centres, and integrated delivery networks rather than as independent practitioners. According to the AMA, 2016 was the tipping point in this transition, with less than 50% of physicians owning their medical practices. In a recent conversation with a physician friend he bemoaned the lessening of “the art… in the art of medicine”. He articulated a pervasive fear that the status and value of the physician who is guideline and protocol focused will become extremely minimised. And, that as a member of a profession in transition, he will become a cog in a system that makes little sense in the real world of clinical medicine.

Physician uncertainty appears reasonable, as this transition in healthcare has also brought about a tremendous change for marketers: eroded access. While in 2009, approximately 78% of US prescribers were accessible to personal promotion, the rate has since dropped to below 50%. This costs the pharmaceutical, biotech and medical device industries billions in missed engagements – and also threatens to impact patient care. Physicians who can’t find time to engage regularly with brands, after all, may prescribe with incomplete data on available treatments.

How experience mapping enables pharma marketers to increase physician engagement

To achieve success today, brands must continue to anticipate and meet the specific needs of their high-value prospects

This decline in personal promotion, while stunning, also presents pharma with an opportunity to innovate. To achieve success today, brands must continue to anticipate and meet the specific needs of their high-value prospects – and find new ways to engage them beyond traditional face-to-face conversations. This starts with unearthing insights about how to influence, activate, increase loyalty, and drive growth by mapping the physician experience.

Experience maps are complex design artifacts that help brands understand physicians’ needs and meet them where they are.

Experience mapping allows marketers to survey the daily experience of physicians (and other healthcare providers) to identify untapped opportunities for engagement. By observing and charting practice dynamics, clinical work-flow patterns, guidelines, protocols, peer-to-peer/influencer interactions and critical moments of decision, these maps reveal leverage points to impact prescribing behaviours.

To understand what drives physicians’ decisions and actions, the researchers at Hall & Partners Health design experience maps to include both conscious (rational, reflective) and unconscious (implicit, automatic) motivations. By exploring the expectations, drivers and emotions behind prescribing behaviours, this process can help pharma brands anticipate what may drive physicians to act in the future.

We increasingly use new technologies to enrich the process of experience mapping. While many projects still begin with one-on-one physician interviews (along with peers, office staff, and influencers, providing a 360° perspective), advances such as mobile in-the-moment tracking capture the immediacy of physicians’ lives as they move through their day-to-day activities. This in-depth observation reveals key insights as to the cultural norms and influences that shape physicians’ perspectives and decisions in regards to the patients and communities they serve.

Pharma marketers can reach physicians when they are most open to influence and engagement

With this data, pharma marketers can develop the personalised brand experiences that physicians will perceive as most valuable, and adopt delivery systems to reach physicians when they are most open to influence and engagement. New paradigms are waiting to be discovered in data-driven, digital, non-personal promotion. Intuitively, these new tools can overcome identified barriers, address unmet needs, and help physicians achieve their most important goals.

For every US physician kept up at night by concerns that they aren’t delivering the best possible care, pharma can prescribe remedy. By comprehensively mapping the physician experience, then developing educational and informational tools that fit the practices of today, pharma can help physicians keep their focus where it has always belonged: on enhancing the lives of their patients.


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